John 5 is gearing up for the August 12th release of his eighth solo album Careful With That Axe.
Currently, he is heading out on a U.S. tour with Rob Zombie that includes a Michigan stop in Saginaw at First Merit Bank Event Park on September 27.
Q: Where are you at today?
John 5: I’m in the most amazing place in the world: Los Angeles. I love it.
Q: Well you have a lot going on right now so let’s get right into it. When we talked last year, you were working on your eighth solo album and now it’s done and being released next month. Now that it’s here how are you feeling about it?
John 5: I’m very proud of it. I really took my time on it. To be completely honest with you, it actually came out better than I thought it would. It has these different musicians on it and it really brought the record to another level. Matt Bissonette is playing bass on it and he just really killed it. I was super, super happy with how it came out. Rodger Carter played drums on it and he did such a great job. The guy really was into it and I believe it really made a difference.
Q: Listening to the new album, it really weaves through so many different genres and styles. What do you feel was the overall vision for Careful With That Axe?
John 5: Well it’s really starting with the title of the album. A lot of the idea behind the album comes from my childhood including the title. You know, “careful with that axe”, a guitar axe. My parents gave me this guitar, my first guitar, and I remember my dad saying, well don’t count on this as more than a hobby because this just isn’t going to be a career, because I wanted to be a musician so bad. I remember him saying it was a one in a million chance. So that’s kind of like where Careful With That Axe came from because when you receive a guitar, which is called a axe, you just don’t know if it’s going to bring you riches or poverty or happiness or sadness. I mean, what’s really going to happen with this axe? Also, some of the song titles revolve around axe murders that happened in the United States. When you look at the titles, it’s like what is this, “Flight of the Vulcan Kelly”? Well, that’s kind of a take on the “Flight of the Bumblebee” because the vulcan kelly was a brand of an axe that was around in the late 1800 and 1900’s. So there’s a lot of cool things like that on the album.
Q: Is there one track in particular where you feel you really nailed it?
John 5: I love “This Is My Rifle”, of course. I love listening to that but I also love all of the tracks because I’m playing them all live right now. I love “Jerry’s Breakdown” because it’s really tough. He had some really cool stuff like that, and you know, I really love the Elvis movies. I just really love the record. I know people always say that but I really do enjoy it.
Q: Going back to the mixing of the genres. That’s something that you have always done and it’s a staple of Rob Zombie albums as well. What is your favorite thing about being able to break down boundaries like that?
John 5: Yeah, the reason I do that is also going back to my childhood I think. I wanted to be a session musician and I knew that I needed to learn all these different styles of music. So I started listening to all these different styles because I saw this movie called Session Man and I was pretty young. I mean super young! Of course I was very uneducated on what I was doing but from what little education I did have, I was like I have to know every type of music there is if I’m going to be a session guitar player. So I started studying all these different types of music and it actually helped me with my career so much because it kept my brain occupied , not just by rock, but by all of these things. To me it’s all just music. So it’s all the same when I go in and record music. If I stayed with just rock, I would get bored with it.
Q: You brought up “Jerry’s Breakdown” but you also have another Jerry Reed cover on the album with “Jiffy Jam”. Why did you choose those?
John 5: Me and my dad, well my parents, loved Jerry Reed. I remember listening to a lot of Jerry Reed growing up. My dad would play the record and I would hear a song like “Jerry’s Breakdown” and be like, oh my god, that’s so cool! It’s just a part of my childhood. I thought Jerry Reed was just a amazing talent.
Q: So will you be doing any touring for the album? I know you’re in the middle of touring with Rob Zombie right now.
John 5: Yeah, I’m glad you ask that because a lot of people have been asking me about that and wondering about what I’m doing. What I’m going to be doing is a live-streaming concert and it’s kind of going to be set up like the Tonight Show. We’re gonna play live all of the songs from the record. It’s going to be hosted by Chris Broderick from Megadeth and the people from the Jay Leno Tonight Show are kind of putting it all together. I’m going to do three concerts because of the time changes. It’s gonna be so weird for people so I’m going to be doing like the American and Canadian one and then I’m going to do a Australia and Japan one and then I’ll do a Europe one. So it won’t be like one concert where you’re like, oh my god this concert’s at one in the morning! This way I can hit all the time zones. It’s gonna be so cool. It’s gonna be in October. I’m so excited about it! It’s gonna be October 17, I believe. I don’t think anybody’s really done this before and it’s the perfect time to see me live in the perfect atmosphere in your living room and stuff like that. People will be able to ask questions and there will be other cool stuff. I think it’s going to be really cool.
Q: Do you find the recording process to be drastically different when you are working on your solo albums compared to working on Rob Zombie albums?
John 5: I do. It’s very different because these instrumental records are really free in the process. With Rob it’s like I’m really trying to come up with the best stuff possible. It’s all about how these songs are going to sound live and you know looking for a certain pitch or whatever. It can be difficult at times when I have all these cool melodies and riffs in my head but usually it’s obvious what they are. I mean some will really work great for the instrumental songs and there are certain types of riffs and melodies that work for Rob Zombie. So it is two very different animals completely.
Q: So you are working on the new Rob Zombie album now. I saw a interview recently where Rob described the new music as “f*cking weird”, which made me laugh because I think that can be said about all of his music. How do you feel the new music is coming out?
John 5: Well I do think it’s weird but it’s really good. You know, you can always say it’s weird but it’s also really, really hooky too. I’ve written so many times with Rob and we write so well together. He is so great at writing music. It’s like writing a book. It’s great so we’re just having a good time. I’m so lucky that I have that relationship with Rob because so many people struggle to write together.
Q: You are heading out on a U.S. tour with Rob Zombie, which will be making a stop in Saginaw in September. What can people coming out expect this time around?
John 5: It’s just a total party. What we’re doing now is we’re like getting the crowd involved and it’s incredible and you can just see the crowd receive it. We’ll just do stuff like play a random song. You just have to experience it. It’s just a crazy party. It’s dirty; it’s filthy; it’s like a big huge house party. It’s totally insane.
Q: You have the live DVD out now: The Zombie Horror Picture Show and I feel like anytime you go to see Rob Zombie, it is a very sensory experience. Were you happy with the finished product and how well it has been received?
John 5: Oh my god, I am so happy! It is something that we’ve always wanted to do and Rob put a lot of time into it so seeing it do so well is so cool. Now the interesting thing about making a live DVD is you know, being able to fix stuff in the studio because you know sometimes you have technical issues or whatever and it’s live. So when we did this, Rob was like okay, here’s the deal, we are going to do this two nights and nobody is going to do any touch ups or fix anything. That’s why we have two nights so let’s say something happens that we can’t control, we have another night. So it was so cool. I remember sitting with the band, Piggy and Ginger, and we were like we’ve got to be really on our game here but we still have to move around. So it ended up coming out so perfect but there is one fix on there. Next time you watch it, check out my guitar solo on “Thunderkiss ’65”. My volume knob comes off and I look at it and I throw it into the crowd. I mean that has never happened to me in the ten years of touring with Rob and it happened at that moment at that time. It was so weird. But everything in there was completely live so I’m really proud of it.
Q: Is there one song that you never get tired of playing?
John 5: You know, I love “Thunderkiss” because I get my crazy guitar solo in there but there’s not really any songs that I get tired of playing. I do a little competition with myself to see how tight I can play it so I don’t get tired of it. I know that’s weird but I just don’t.
Q: Last time we spoke, we talked about how Halloween is your favorite holiday and about the first installment of Rob Zombie’s haunted house/concert experience The Great American Nightmare. You had said that you really enjoyed it and hoped he was going to bring it back this year. I saw that it is indeed coming back and maybe doing some traveling this year. Are you looking forward to that?
John 5: Yeah, I’m very happy that we’re going to do it again. I’m not sure where it’s going to be at but it’s going to be really cool. We got such positive feedback on it.
Q: You are going to be working on the new Rob Zombie film coming up as well?
John 5: We really haven’t started working on it yet but he asked me to do the score so I’m excited. Doing that is always a lot of fun.
Q: What do you have coming up after this U.S. tour?
John 5: Well we are going to start concentrating on the new record. So we’re just going to be working. There’s always something going on, which I’m very happy and thankful for. I like to stay busy.
Q: Yeah with your family, and touring and recording and working on your own stuff, it’s gotta be hard juggling everything. How do you do it?
John 5: I have no idea. It’s really hard. That’s the hardest thing. It’s tough, seriously. I mean I like to do everything at home. I’m that guy! I’m the responsible one who is yelling, oh I got it, but when I’m not around, it’s really hard. So I’m doing my best.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of being in the music business?
John 5: I just love having a guitar in my hands. I love it. It’s like when you’re a kid you have your blanket or your favorite toy; I just love having my guitar.
Q: How many guitars do you currently own?
John 5: I don’t know so I guess that many! So many I don’t know. I’m just crazy about guitars. They’re all really beautiful. I just have an absurd amount.
Q: Do you have a favorite?
John 5: I have two favorites. My favorite one that I play all the time is my gold Telecaster, which I play on everything. The one that is my favorite vintage one is a Fender Telecaster, which is just super plain and a gorgeous, gorgeous guitar. Those are my two favorites.
Q: You recently hit up one of the Motley Crue shows, but what is the best show outside of your own that you’ve attended this year?
John 5: Well actually I’m going to see Paul McCartney at Dodger Stadium and I’m really super excited about that. My whole family just grew up with the Beatles and stuff and I just never got a chance to see Paul because I’ve always been touring so I’m really looking forward to seeing that show.
Q: What is your favorite horror movie of all time?
John 5: My favorite horror movie of all time would have to be The Creature From the Black Lagoon. I love that movie. I love all the old Universal movies but that’s my favorite and everyone always sends me stuff from the Creature From The Black Lagoon.
Q: Final words?
John 5: Just check out the new record and check out the live-stream concert.